Ty Willingham: Coaches Need More Time

There’s been a common theme lately here at LBS, and it involves the profession of college football head coaches. We had Houston Nutt agree that it was the hardest time in coaching, considering so many coaches with proven track records have been getting fired. While I believe Tyrone Willingham got a raw deal at Notre Dame, he certainly got what he deserved after doing very little with the Washington program. His main issue of contention with coaches is time. As in, coaches aren’t getting enough time to develop programs:

“It’s not just my issue, it’s a college football issue — we have to give coaches a chance to do their job. Because now we have coaches … especially some of the minority coaches … they are losing their jobs after 21/2 years. That’s not right.

Maybe Notre Dame got it right [retaining Weis]. But we have to change that mentality with [black] coaches. Nick Saban is making it work at Alabama in his second season. But in the majority of cases, it’s going to take longer to get things right and up to speed.

He’s not the first coach to complain about coaches not having enough time to prove themselves. I think five years is really the optimal amount for any head coach at any level, with four a passable length of time. Thing is, winning with lesser players, keeping the players competing at a high level, not getting blown out, all are signs of a coach doing a good job. There are ways to tell if a coach has it or doesn’t early on, so I can understand some coaches getting axed quickly. Whoever the coach is at Washington State for instance, certainly deserves to get fired after only one season — he clearly isn’t qualified to lead a team. But for most other situations, unless you can get yourself a Spurrier or a Saban, you really should give your head coach a chance to prove himself. Maybe Notre Dame did get it right giving Weis another shot, as he said. And if they got it wrong, at least we all get to enjoy another putrid season for the Fighting Irish!

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  • http://www.thehounddawgsportsblog.com/ theHoundDawg

    It works both ways. There have been a few head coaches come in and do incredibly well – with the talent their predecessors left, and after two or three more years, the program falls apart. The poster boy for this was of course Larry Coker, who won a National Championship with the players Butch Davis left him at Miami, only to see the program crash and burn a short time later. Not too dissimilar was the situation at UCLA, where Bob Toledo’s Bruins won 20 games in a row through years two and three, only to lose control but somehow last through five .500 seasons.

    More than just won lost record needs to be considered in evaluating head coaches. A bad start can be acceptable if there is some degree of improvement, and there are quality personnel in the program. Winning at the beginning sometimes masks big problems that can haunt the school for years to come.

    I have every confidence that Rick Neuheisel is a quality guy, an excellent coach, and that he has learned from his errors. I totally discount his 4-8 first year at UCLA and see a very bright future for the program, and expect him to be at UCLA for many years, but the facts remain that despite winning years, 33–14 at Colorado and 33–16 at Washington, he was fired from each school after only four years, and he left horrible messes at both schools.